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Cherry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

If the question is “Why on earth would anyone stand around and pit a pound and a half of cherries”, then the answer is this cake.  I don’t really care how many cherries I would have to pit, I would do it happily, willingly, and with great anticipation if, in the end, it meant I could eat this.  Oh, is this cake ever good.  And I do mean good.  So good that someone (not me, I swear)) may or may not have eaten 4 pieces the day I made it.  I’ll admit to eating 2 pieces and wanting more very badly, but using unusual restraint because I also very badly wanted some for breakfast the next morning.

You will be glad to hear that this cake is quite easy to make, and once you have your cherries pitted (which really isn’t hard if you have a pitter), it all goes together very easily.  It’s just a matter of melting some butter, brown sugar and a little balsamic vinegar in a skillet and tossing in your cherries until they’re

 all coated with that lovely syrup, making your batter which is spread over the top of the cherries and then tossing the whole thing in the oven.  Yes, it bakes


right in the skillet.  Lovely, no?

What then emerges from said oven is nothing short of ambrosial.  The cornmeal in the cake gives it an amazing texture that is hard to describe, but it’s just all


so heavenly.   I’ve made this cake the past 2 summers and have learned to wait until at least mid-July when the cherries are at their peak.  You mostly want those dark, ripe ones, but a bright red one here and there is fine.

If I were in charge of such things, I would extend the cherry season at least another month, maybe another 6 months.  It seems that no sooner am I re-kindling my cherry love affair, but they are gone. Vanished.  And I am left to wander the produce aisles, fondly remembering where they used to wait for me, knowing I would buy more than I needed, unable to resist their juicy purple charms.

Don’t let this happen to you.  Go now.  Buy cherries.  Make this cake.  It will soon be too late.

Cherry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

Printable Recipe

Recipe courtesy of Epicurious

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
4-5 cups whole pitted fresh Bing cherries or other dark sweet cherries (about 21 ounces whole unpitted cherries)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground medium grind)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, separated
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F.

Combine 1/4 cup butter with brown sugar and vinegar in 10- to 11-inch ovenproof skillet with 2-inch-high sides. Stir over medium heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to high; add cherries and bring to boil. Remove from heat.

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend.

Using electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter in large bowl. Add sugar; beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla.

Add flour mixture alternately with milk in 2 additions each, beating just until blended and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.

Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another medium bowl until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until whites are stiff but not dry. Using rubber spatula, fold 1/4 of whites into batter to lighten slightly. Fold in remaining whites in 3 additions (batter will be thick). Spoon batter over cherries in skillet, then spread evenly with offset spatula to cover cherries.

Bake cake until top is golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool in skillet on rack 5 minutes. Run spatula around edges of cake to loosen. Place large serving platter upside down atop skillet. Using pot holders or oven mitts, firmly hold platter and skillet together and invert. Leave skillet atop cake 5 minutes. Remove skillet. If necessary, rearrange any cherries that may have become dislodged. Let cake cool at least 45 minutes. Cut cake into wedges and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Reader Comments (22)

What a fantastic cake! I almost never buy cherries because I have no idea what to do with them ( they're not really native to my neck of the woods) . I might have to run out and get me some so I can give this a try. Do you think this would work with other fruits too?

July 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjodiemo

I don't see why you couldn't substitute other fruits in season...blueberries might be good. I just might add a little more sugar if you use them - maybe 1/3 cup instead of 1/4 cup. Let me know how that turns out, if you do. The cherries are very good in this though.

July 22, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

I've never pitted cherries, I don't have a pitter, but I would for this cake! That looks awesome!

July 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermarie

I am making this in the morning! Lovely pics, even better with the recipe! And pitting a pound and a half of cherries?? Sorry hon, you're a lightweight! Since they are around for such a short time, I get 6 - 8 pounds and spend the better part of an afternoon pitting the little suckers, then putting roughly a pound in ziplocks, then off they go to the deep freeze! I find if they are done right away they keep a nice crunch even months later!! I used my last bag from last year a week before this years marathon!! After seeing this recipe tho, I'm not sure I'll be able to carefully ration them! Thanks again!

July 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDebbi

OK, Debbie. You've inspired me to go buy up every available cherry within a 50-mile radius and start pitting! We will have cherries in January!

July 23, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

I've had this bookmarked and just hadn't gotten around to making this until tonight...let me just say WOW!!!! Absolutely wonderful! And my husband and I both understand the two piece thing...lol...Thanks for such a great recipe...this is definitely a keeper!

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl

I just made this and substituted almond extract for the vanilla and added in a half cup of golden raisins-its so good!

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArkay

What a great idea to use the almond extract. Almonds and cherries are best friends so I'm sure that was good! And adding raisins sounds intriguing. I'll have to give that a try. So glad you liked the recipe.

August 7, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Wow - you have a few recipes on this blog going into my "must try" bin adn this is another. Epicurious is always my first stop looking for recipes but it's great to see your pictures and experience with their recipe.

June 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

Do you have any ideas where to get a skillet you can use on the stove top and put in the oven? I don't think I have any such thing

July 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSam

Most skillets will go from the stove top to the oven, Sam. The only ones that might not are the ones with plastic handles. But if your skillets have plastic handles, you can wrap them really well with aluminum foil to insulate them and they can be used in the oven. Of course, the best skillets that go from stove top to oven are cast iron (such as Lodge), but stainless steel skillets work great too. Calphalon makes some great ones that will work for this and any of these will work for this recipe. Hope that helps, Sam. Nice to hear from you.

July 11, 2012 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Oh man this was REALLY GOOD. I had to place a piece of foil over the pan about half way through and turn down the heat a bit because I thought it browned too quickly, but I would definitely make this again.

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSam

So glad you liked it, Sam! It's one of our favorite cakes too. Great to hear from you!

July 18, 2012 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Do you think this recipe would freeze well? I have some fresh cherries from a friend but don't want to serve it for another 5 days!

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCrystal

I think this would freeze really well, Crystal. But maybe you could cook the cherries in the first step and then refrigerate them until you want to make the cake and then reheat them and proceed with the recipe. I think either method might work well for you. Enjoy!

July 10, 2013 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry


What a fabulous looking cake.

I want to make it...but...I'm in the UK and we normally measure ingredients in ounce.
How many ounce in a cup?
and do the ingredients translate to ounce via a simple conversion calculation to get the recipe to be 'UK friendly' ?

Thank you very much

: )

November 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLéon

The best way to convert the measurements to UK is to use a conversion chart, such as this one...
http://www.onlineconversion.com/weight_volume_cooking.htm, Leon. That should get you to the correct measurements. Enjoy!

November 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Delicious cake!

July 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Currie

Thank you, Sarah!

July 5, 2014 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Oh my. that was delightful. the perfect combinations. we will add chopped almonds to the batter next time.

August 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTish

May I ask what temperature you bake the cake at for the 45mins? Thanks.

May 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDerek

Hey Derek! You bake the cake at 350 degrees (that's mentioned at the top of the instructions). Enjoy!

May 22, 2016 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

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